World

Note found after Utrecht tram shooting fuels suspicion of terror motive

Dutch prosecutors say they are taking seriously the possibility a man suspected of killing three people and seriously wounding three in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht had a terrorist motive.

No sign main suspect arrested after 3 killed in Dutch city knew the victims

Dutch prosecutors are also investigating whether Tanis had other personal motives. (Police Utrecht/Associated Press)

Dutch prosecutors say they are taking seriously the possibility a man suspected of killing three people and seriously wounding three in a shooting on a tram in Utrecht had a terrorist motive.

In a statement Tuesday, prosecutors say the nature of the attack and a note found in a getaway car give them reasons to consider terrorism as a motive. They say other possible motives also are being investigated.

The prosecutors also say investigations do not indicate the main suspect, a 37-year-old man of Turkish descent who was arrested hours after Monday's attack, knew any of the victims.

Prosecutors say a weapon was recovered when he was arrested.

The statement says as well as the three seriously wounded, four suffered light injuries.

3rd arrest

Police said Tuesday they've arrested a third person on suspicion of involvement in the shooting, following the second arrest in the case on Monday. Police have not released their names or said what their connection to the shooting might be.

Public prosecution office spokesperson Ties Kortmann said Gokmen Tanis, 37, is being held on suspicion of manslaughter with a possible terrorist motive, but investigations are continuing into what drove Tanis to allegedly open fire in a tram.

Authorities say they have not ruled out other possible motives and Dutch media citing his neighbours in Utrecht have speculated the shooting may have been linked to a relationship, but that appears increasingly unlikely after prosecutors said none of the victims was known to the main suspect.

Tanis was arrested Monday evening after an hours-long manhunt that nearly paralyzed the fourth largest city in the Netherlands and sent shockwaves through the country.

Officials said Tanis has a long criminal record in the Netherlands involving a variety of offences — none terror-related.

Detained on suspicion of rape

Dutch judicial authorities have published details about the criminal record of the main suspect.

According to information made public on the official website of Dutch courts, Gokmen Tanis was accused of a rape in 2017. He was jailed in that case from August to September 2017 and then again from Jan. 4 this year because he refused to work with authorities investigating the case. He was released on March 1 after pledging to co-operate.

His trial in the rape case is scheduled for July 15.

He also was convicted in March of shoplifting and burglary in 2018. He was handed a prison sentence of four months for the burglary and a week for the shop theft, but has not served any time yet as the cases can still be appealed.

In 2014, he was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted in the same case of illegal weapon possession and attempted theft.

Prosecutors were questioning all three suspects and it was not yet clear if Tanis would be brought before an investigating judge on Tuesday.

Such hearings are generally held to request suspects are detained for longer pending further investigations.

Members of the public and Utrecht's mayor on Tuesday placed bunches of flowers near the busy traffic intersection where the gunfire erupted.

A man places a heart-shaped balloon next to flowers at the site of the tram shooting in Utrecht. (Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters)

One bunch carried a message in Dutch saying: "We are sad and deeply shaken. Utrecht has been hit hard; straight through the heart. Strength!! Peace and Love."

Dutch media published details of two of the victims killed Monday — the 19-year-old woman reportedly worked in a ​​​​​​café in Vianen, and a father of three who volunteered as a soccer coach in Vleuten, a town west of Utrecht.

The soccer club posted a message saying they heard "with great dismay and astonishment" that the trainer of an under-19 boys' team and under-11 girls' team died in the shooting.

(CBC News/BBC/Google Earth)